King of Salsa

Andy’s Bueno Salsa twists tortillas’ favorite topping from mild to wild.

For eight years, Andy Doka of Andy’s Bueno Salsa has not missed a day at the weekly Kailua Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

The self-made salsa entrepreneur says greeting his customers personally is the greatest part of his job.

“The No. 1 thing that drives me in my business is the instant gratification: When a customer picks up a chip and tastes my salsa and says, ‘Wow, this is the best salsa I’ve ever had.’ It’s worth more than all the gold and money in the world.”

Doka, 55, of Lanikai, makes the homemade salsa out of a certified kitchen at Kalapawai Market, where his salsa is also used in menu items, including breakfast wraps.

Besides the Original Andy’s Bueno Salsa Recipe, there is also the Extra-Cilantro, Tomati lloavocado, Original with Pickles, Black Star and Extra-Spicy Ghost Pepper Salsa, which is only for those who can tolerate the heat.

“I have a quiver of recipes of probably two dozen types of salsas that I developed and enjoy,” Doka says. “I bring out a maximum of about seven per market.”

Andy’s Original Salsa began 12 years ago. Doka’s small Mexican restaurant in Waimanalo had closed, but customers were still asking him for the salsa, so he launched Andy’s Bueno Salsa.

The salsa, a secret recipe, is handmade in batches using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, which results in a fresh, unforgettable taste.

The chilies are from a farm in Kailua, the cilantro from Vilath Farm, which operates a booth next to him at the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation’s Farmers’ Market in Kailua.

Doka also created a locally made chip in collaboration with Hawaiian Chip Co., using locally made Sinaloa tortillas. They’re sold alongside his salsa at farmers’ market.

Andy Doka is all smiles showing off two Andy's favorites: the extra-cilantro and original recipe.

Andy Doka is all smiles showing off two Andy’s favorites: the extra-cilantro and original recipe.

So where does he get the inspirati on for his salsa variati ons? He cites his four daughters, culinary travels and visits to restaurants.

Gentry, the youngest of the four, would always cut up a bunch of cilantro and throw it in the tub of salsa, resulting in the Extra-Cilantro. Doka nicknamed it “My Gentry.”

His second youngest, Kylie, suggested that Doka chop some ‘olena, or turmeric, from a friend’s organic farm in Kailua, and incorporate it into the salsa.

“I certainly did,” Doka says, “and now I present, from time to time, the Turmeric Salsa by Kylie. It’s delicious, and people just gobble it up.”

Another time, his daughters decided to play a joke on him by chopping up a dill pickle and throwing it into the original salsa. When he tasted it, Doka asked: “Oh my gosh, who put the dill pickle in the salsa? Whoever did it is a genius, because it’s a winner.” And thus, the Original with Pickles Salsa was born.

Doka came up with the Tomatilloavocado after enjoying the delicious green sauce at various Mexican restaurants, aiming to create a “wonderful tart, tangy tomatillo with a smooth, creamy avocado finish.” The extra hot Black Star was thus named, because Doka used to draw one on top of the container to differentiate it between his original salsa.

For the truly hard-core, hot-salsa seekers, Doka also has the Extra-Spicy Ghost Pepper Salsa using bhut jolokia chili peppers from India.

“It’s a sweet flavor up front, with an extended creeper of five to six seconds for it to actually hit—that intense heat—then it disappears like a ghost,” Doka says.

When not working, Doka, who’s lived in Lanikai since the 1980s, can oſt en be seen in the ocean. He plans to set off on a world-round trip in his yacht this summer.

“I love where I live,” he says. “I love the people. I love my family … I love the water and swimming in it … It goes on and on. My family’s the whole town.”

Andy’s Original and Extra-Cilantro Salsa are available at Foodland, Times Supermarkets, Tamura’s, Whole Foods Market and Down to Earth. For the full line of salsa and chips, visit the farmers’ market at the Longs Drugs parking garage in Kailua on Thursday evenings and chat with the salsa king himself.